What many environmentalists and scientists feared would happen when Trump took the oath in January has finally come to pass. It may have taken 100 days to get here, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has wiped its climate change website as it is “undergoing changes”.
The move was anticipated a while go, spurring hackers, scientists, and archivists to download and save as much EPA data relating to climate change and the environment as possible from any future purge. Now, the official government site simply states that “this page is being updated” in order to “reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.”
The website used to have extensive pages on how climate change was affecting Americans in every state, carbon emissions data, and what was being done under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (which Trump has already scrapped). The shell of the site still contains a link to an archived version from January, as it was forced to do by Freedom of Information Act requests, but there is no certainty that this will be given a prominent position at a later date.
“We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law,” said JP Freire, the EPA’s associate administrator for public affairs, in a statement. “As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land, and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency.”
Aside from the fact the EPA should be reflecting information and evidence rather than someone's personal views, the view to which Freire is referring is that of the EPA’s new chief, Scott Pruitt, a man who has made no secret of his dislike for the organization. Having spent six years suing the agency over its attempts to regulate mercury, smog, and other pollution, his appointment to then head the agency has been one of incredible controversy.
“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt has previously said. That – to use the Trump administrations jargon – is a fairly obvious “alternative fact”, or to use more common parlance: a lie.
The fact that the EPA’s own climate change web pages contradicted this, and were used to argue against Pruitt’s own views, is thought to be one of the primary driving forces behind the move to purge it. The fact that the move was conducted on a Friday afternoon is also seen as an attempt to downplay and bury the maneuver.